Found on my hard drive: SF Plot Seed

I just moved and traded in my old desktop for a new notebook. I've copied everything over from the old hard drive, and now it's time for some archaeology while I sift through old files and projects.

Here's one I'd barely started - a plot seed for an SF novel with working title, "The Race". From what I can recall, the plot synopsis was that life was discovered on Europa in 2013, kicking off a race between countries, corporations and individuals to build a follow-on mission. Looks like I wrote this back in 1999.

From these notes, I think the point of the story was that accelerating technology was making everything unpredictable as the race went on. You'd have unmanned missions controlled from Earth, manned missions, manned missions with augmented humans, static AI and self-modifying AI. I'm not sure what the idea was beyond that, though.
Exterior, space: unmanned probe lands on Europa and deploys a heater/miner, which burrows under the ice and


“Twenty-one thirteen. The Europa probe “Ballard” begins to burrow into the frozen moon of Jupiter. After two days it made it through the planet’s ice crust and into the ocean below, heated by the same forces that keep the tiny world’s core molten – the perpetual tug-of-war between Jupiter and its other moons.

“After a careful, week-long descent, made possible despite the hour’s time delay between command and response, the Ballard reached the bottom of the ocean, narrowing in on a heat plume detected by thermal sensors. It hit jackpot on the first try with the volcanic vent – where there was water and energy, there was life. We weren’t alone in the universe.


“Sorry… I wasn’t counting our poor cousins. You’re right,

“Look, the probe was launched in ’09. It was built in ’06 – even in just those three years computers quadrupled in speed. Since then just brute force has made them a thousand times faster still; with quantum processors we’ve gotten to the point where we can trust them as children. What we had out there was a mere plaything! If the human race isn’t extinct in another hundred years, they’ll laugh at us for throwing a toy at the most amazing discovery ever made while we wallow in our own divinity here on this ball of dirt!”
  • One way?
  • One way until recovery mission? 2001
  • Refuel on Europa?  2010
  • One ship is AI, upgraded along the way – software updates make it smarter as it goes.